Kawasaki out of MotoGP

UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Kawasaki said it has pulled out of motorcycling's MotoGP world championship as part of the company's efforts to cut costs.

"We took the final decision not to continue in MotoGP yesterday," Kawasaki's Katsuhiro Sato told Reuters. "It is something we have been considering since mid-December. "In the current economic climate and unless the situation improves it is difficult to say if we will return."

Kawasaki, which has competed in MotoGP since 2003, follows in the wake of three other high profile withdrawals from motor sport. Honda pulled out of Formula One and Subaru and Suzuki have pulled out of the world rally championship.

01/05/09 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. In yet another ominous sign of premier motor sport's struggle amid the global financial crisis, the Japanese manufacturer Kawasaki is expected to announce on Monday its decision to pull out of MotoGP.

"There will be an official press release very soon, where we can confirm or deny all rumors," the Kawasaki rider John Hopkins wrote on his website.

The news follows a recent exodus of manufacturers from top categories, including Honda from formula one, as well as Audi, Porsche, Suzuki and Subaru from other top series.

12/30/08 Californian John Hopkins has confirmed reports that Kawasaki may be on the verge of pulling out of the 2009 MotoGP World Championship, though he hasn’t heard anything official at this point.

“I heard it’s up in the air, but I haven’t heard anything confirmed yet," Hopkins said from his home in Rancho Santa Fe, California, today. “I got some calls from the team manager [Michael Bartholemy] and he said that everything could be up in the air as to whether they run it or not, but nothing has been confirmed. I don’t know what it would do to me. I’m really not sure. I’ve been talking to my managers and seeing what the plan is and they’ve been on the phone to Japan trying to figure it out as well. Right now I’m still contracted to them so I’m not sure what the plan is."

According to reports from Europe, an announcement could come as soon as January 5.

The move would not only affect Hopkins but his new teammate Marco Melandri. It would also mean that just 17 bikes would be on the grid for the season opener in Qatar on April 12.

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